Jesus taught us to love our enemies and to forgive. Only Jesus would say such a shocking thing as “love your enemies.” But Jesus’ teaching always cuts against the standard beliefs and teachings of his and any day. Love for enemies is nowhere else taught ever.
Hatred for an enemy is destructive for the hater. Holding a grudge is what Jesus is really talking about when he says “Everyone remaining angry with his brother is a murderer in his heart.”
“Remaining angry” means holding a grudge against someone.
I can remember holding a grudge — against two men who were very close to me at one time. One was a minister and the other was a lawyer. At that time, the minister was also holding a grudge against me. We might meet in the hall, and we would look away and cut each other cold, totally ignoring the other. The lawyer didn’t even know I was holding a grudge against him. Both had done me wrong, I felt.
One Sunday evening I was speaking in a church in Wichita Falls, Texas. My sermon was on, The Lord’s Prayer which is really a prayer for disciples to pray. I got to the line that says, “…forgive us of our debts as we have forgiven our debtors.” I was looking at the Greek text that made it very plain that we had to forgive first before we would be forgiven by God.
I asked the congregation, “How many of you are holding a grudge right now?” and I raised my hand. Several people held up their hands, including the church’s new minister. Suddenly I realized I was holding up my hand. I got a lump in my throat and could not speak for at least a minute. God was dealing with me right up there in front of everyone. They knew something was wrong. When I could finally speak, I told the congregation what had just happened. I had forgiven those two men in my heart. I felt an amazing wash of the spirit cleansing me. Somehow I finished that sermon. Afterward, people all over the church were hugging and crying and talking. I drove home to Dallas after that, watching the road through tears. God was really dealing with my heart.
Later I had a chance to speak on a Sunday evening at our home church. I read the passage in Matthew 18 in which Jesus says, “If you do not forgive your brother from your heart, neither will my heavenly father forgive you.” It happened again. I stood there unable to speak. Finally I gave a general apology to the whole church. The minister and the lawyer were there. The minister later told me he was thinking, “That’s right! You owe us an apology.” God had not dealt with him yet. But the lawyer still didn’t know I had been angry with him.
Weeks later, after the minister had seen a wreck in his travels where several people had been killed, he spoke on a Sunday evening. He said, “Life is too short to go on holding grudges. Today I want to ask forgiveness of three people in this congregation, and the first one is Mark Berrier.” I said, “You’ve got it!” He named the others, but I don’t remember who they were. That minister and I hugged and cried together after the service, forgiving each other completely.
This is what the Christian faith is all about — love for enemies, acceptance and forgiveness.
If you are holding a grudge, you must forgive. Deal with it now. Forgive and God will forgive you.
Mark Berrier is the minister of Central Christian Church in Sherman. He earned a doctoral degree in divinity from Dallas Christian College. He and his wife of 49 years, Paula, have two children and eight grandchildren.